Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Projecting, Reducing and Managing the Risk

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Mathematics and Physical Sciences lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

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As the world warms over this century, the level of the oceans will rise almost everywhere in a non-uniform pattern. The increasing risk of flooding from higher sea levels, combined with potentially stronger coastal storms, poses a risk to urban areas along all coasts, particularly the U.S. Northeast coast.

In this lecture, Michael Oppenheimer will describe the physical mechanisms causing observed increases in sea level. He will describe sea level rise projections and their relation to increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases. The credibility of projections is limited by our modest comprehension of the dynamics of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. This lecture presents an emerging approach to projecting sea level rise in the absence of fully credible models, along with resulting projections of regional sea level and flood risk increases worldwide. The talk will conclude with a discussion of lessons learned about managing and reducing coastal flood risk from recent episodes of extreme flooding, including a look at New York City’s response following Hurricane Sandy.

About the Speaker

Michael Oppenheimer is director of Princeton University’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. He is a long-time participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, serves on the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, and is a science advisor to the Environmental Defense Fund, where he formerly served as chief scientist. His research addresses climate change broadly, including mechanisms causing sea level rise, projection of flood probabilities and policy responses.

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